First Person" Tips to Maximize Your Return on a Trade Show Booth

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Over my 30+ year career in sales and marketing, with 6 years as a small business owner, I have attended and participated as a vendor in several major trade shows and dozens of smaller events. The challenge is to maximize the return on your investment in a trade show booth.

Here Are 5 Tips to Ensure that You Generate a Profit

- Choose your event wisely

- Plan your objective

- Focus on what your prospects want

- Attract people to your booth

- Follow up

Choose Your Trade Show Wisely

There are trade shows that I attended as a small business owner to further my professional knowledge and make contacts with vendors. Some were too vast for my small business to think of exhibiting. Around the fall of 2000, 250,000 people attended Comdex.

Pick a tradeshow people matching your ideal customer profile attend. As a credit union vendor, I had success at credit union industry conferences with exhibit halls. One sale generated over $100,000.

Further, make sure the people who make buying decisions in your niche actually attend. As a small business vendor at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours, I wanted to meet business owners.

Mostly their employees came to get free food and giveaways. These meetings were still profitable because we got carry-in printer maintenance work for our service company.

Plan Your Objective in Advance

Know why you have a booth at this trade show:

- Lead generation

- Sell products from booth

- Raise awareness

As a small business, you need to make a return quickly so ignore raising awareness. Even political parties and associations want to get new members.

In my business-to-business sales experiences, I can't recall every having a product that I sold right from the booth. I usually had high end solutions or service contracts so I wanted to find prospects with potential needs for my products and services.

Focus Your Message on What Your Prospects Want

Small business people should identify what problems bug people matching your ideal customer profile. Then aim your message at those issues and at the benefits from your products and services fixing their problems.

Attract People to Your Booth

Get people to your booth so you can make contact. You want them to consciously notice that you were there and to remember how you can be of service, i.e. what problems do you fix?

Some effective tools to do this:

- Demonstrations to capture their interest and get them to ask questions

- Giveaways to get them to stop so you can uncover any needs

- Raffles so they register for a chance to win while you get their contact information

Follow Up Immediately

It's easy to return home only to get swamped with the day-to-day activities and fail to follow up. Leads from a trade show booth grow cold quickly. Prioritize leads so you get to the hot ones right away.

Enter the rest into your customer resource management (CRM) program so you can send out a letter thanking them for stopping by your booth. Then, follow up with a call after you have contacted everyone with an immediate need.

Scan the business cards to quickly get the information into your database. Have an assistant input your notes so that you can get to the hot leads.

Trade show booths can be highly profitable. Maximizing your return requires choosing the right show, planning your objectives in advance, focusing your message on your ideal customer profile, and attracting people to your booth so you can make contact and discover any immediate needs. Finally, you have to follow up quickly before your leads grow cold.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

More from this contributor :

Our Marketing Success With a Chamber of Commerce Display Table

First Person: When Your Prospect Is Ready to Buy, Will They Look for You?

First Person: Using Gifts, Freebies and Giveaways to Get a Prospect's Attention

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